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South China Travel and Life Guide, Issue #001 -- Real Life Travel Tips, Tricks and Articles
May 14, 2006

How to Shop, Bargain, Bid Prices in the Streets of China

This article sponsored by Trip Advisor

South China Travel and Life Guide
Contributed by: Almario Jimenez Macion
Sunday, May 14, 2006
As featured in

There are actually many forms of “buy and sell” or trades happening in China – from street hawkers to the huge shopping or retail outlets. Amazing bargains are going on without your knowledge, and it’s NOT due to the fact that you don’t know how to speak Chinese, the local jargons or dialects, BUT, it's because you're not using enough hands, feet and tongue power in your shopping. You want to SHOP SHOP SHOP then DROP, well, but you also need to learn how to bargain to be able to SAVE SAVE SAVE those hard-earned bucks whenever you’re in China.
Now you ask how do I do bargaining in China if in fact, I can't even understand the jargons?
Simple, use your hand, it's through the power of the hand (basically, combined with feet and tongue power that really works)!

Alright, let me put you in a scenario and let's explore one of my favorite cities in China – Xiamen.

SCENARIO: Shopping on the streets of Xiamen, China.
PROBLEM: Dealings with a street hawker and bargaining for the lowest price you can get for a favorite stuff which drives you crazy to own. You don’t have knowledge on the native language of the land – Mandarin.
SOLUTION: 1. Approach the vendor and talk in English (or your native language).
2. Ask the vendor "How much the stuff is?" Vendor notices you’re a foreigner and he/she is of course well-prepared than we (buyers) are. So he/she carefully raises his/her hand which bids a certain amount shown through the number of fingers. Say for example 10 RMB (Chinese Currency) - vendor shows you 10 fingers instead of 5 RMB, originally. Got it? Now..
3. Carefully raise your hand and wave NO (as in STOP, you wanted another cheaper price right?). I am assuming you are totally 'naive' of the local language in this situation, so...
4. Go get a pen and paper and write down how much you actually want to buy your favorite stuff, meaning, make a quick bid through paper and pen. Why not show it through your hands or fingers? I’ll talk about that later, but for now, let’s use the power of the pen and paper.
5. Write down on paper how much you want to bid.
6. Wait for vendor to write his/her price. If you are not satisfied with what the vendor bids, do a re-write and another price bid.

What to do if the vendor does not adhere to your bids?
7. Use FEET power - leave the scene, slowly, waving your hand, moving away from the vendor and nodding your head, as the price is not right; we’re now making some little bargain teases as well as doing business connections with the vendor. Make sure that the vendor is staring at you while you leave the 'bidding' scenario. There’s a big percentage that the vendor would change the price, make a quick jot of another new bid and follow you, or in some scenarios, perhaps chase you! (It really depends on the business case).
8. Continue making your little steps, away from the vendor. If vendor continues to follow, STOP moving (we don't want to spoil this opportunity – strike while the iron is hot!), and approach the vendor and see what was written down as a new price bid on paper. If you are satisfied with the fresh bid, grab it, and take home your favorite stuff.

Well, if it does not work on the first place, you just have to repeat the above steps 'til you get your most attractive lowest price bid, but always remember to keep this vendor as your small business connection. You may be proud about what stuff you discovered from him/her and be happy to refer your friends.

LAST QUICK NOTES (A poor man's receipt)

Street hawkers in China don't usually have receipts on hand and they keep moving around the city just like “gypsies”. If you wanted a receipt, try getting the original paper where you jot down your "price bids". You might be able to use it as a form of a receipt, say for example, your favorite stuff breaks after a week, and you need a replacement from that same vendor. Make it a point to get receipts on whichever stuff you buy in Xiamen or from whichever city in China you drop shopping, be it a street hawker or the big time shops. Receipts really work and you would surely need them when the time comes!

I'm not guaranteeing the shopping tricks in this article would work for you 100%, you would need to do some “shopping and bargaining experiments” and see what really works.

I hope you enjoyed this article and see you later for more. For the meantime, enjoy learning ,shopping and bargaining and have pure fun in China : )

Almario J. Macion is the owner of
© 2006,
Article may only be reprinted if it is not modified in any way, and if all links remain live.

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